The 2020 Europe Sustainable Development Report is out!

Front cover of the Europe Sustainable Development Report 2020, text on a blue plate

The Europe Sustainable Development Report 2020 is the second edition of our independent quantitative report on the progress of the European Union and its member states towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Download the full report and explore the updated SDG Index and Dashboards >>

The Covid-19 pandemic is a setback for sustainable development in Europe and the rest of the world. The EU is still in the midst of the health crisis and the urgent priority remains the suppression of the virus. Compared with countries in the Asia-Pacific, EU countries record more cases and deaths from COVID-19. Learning the lessons from the current crisis and strengthening EU’s preparedness, coordination and resilience for pandemics is key to achieve SDG target 3.d but also to prepare Europe for other critical risks including climate risks.

The new report that is launched today, provides an updated SDG Index and Dashboards for the EU, EU member states and partner countries, as well as recommendations to strengthen the implementation of the SDGs and European Green Deal. The recommendations highlight six areas where an SDG transformation is needed:

  1. Education, Skills and Innovation: Ensure top quality education, including lifelong learning, for all Europeans, and strengthen innovation in strategic technologies and industries. EU countries must increase investments in innovation, educational quality and the development of skills for lifelong learning, including digital skills for all. Critical instruments include the European Education Area, Horizon Europe, and the Green Deal EU missions.
  2. Sustainable Energy: Promote energy efficiency, achieve zero-carbon power generation, decarbonise industry and create new jobs. A central pillar of the Green Deal focuses on decarbonizing power generation and transmission, mobility, buildings and industry. The bulk of the necessary decarbonization will occur through the combination of energy efficiency measures and electrification of point sources with zero-carbon power using smart grids. Success will require Trajectories for Achieving Climate Neutrality, as required under the proposed European Climate Law.
  3. Sustainable Communities, Mobility and Housing: Strengthen cities and other communities by promoting sustainable and smart mobility, renovating housing, ensuring sustainable building standards and supporting new jobs. The SDGs and the objectives of the Green Deal have a strong territorial dimension. Communities across Europe – be they large metropolises, cities, small towns, or villages and rural settlements – all need to become more liveable and require sustainable mobility and housing.
  4. Sustainable Food Production, Healthy Diets, and Biodiversity Protection: Ensure sustainable agriculture and ocean use, promote healthier diets and behaviours, and protect and restore biodiversity and ecosystems with decent incomes for farmers and fishermen. The “Farm-to-Fork” strategy recognises that sustainable food production, healthy diets and biodiversity protection can only be addressed together. Siloed policies and instruments will not succeed. This transformation covers the EU’s common agricultural policy, the goal of assuring healthy food for all, the common fisheries policy, a new biodiversity strategy, a new EU forest strategy and the promotion of reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as building resilience through the European Climate Law; the proposed “long-term vision for rural areas” and “zero-pollution action plan for water, air and soil”; and deforestation-free value chains.
  5. Clean and Circular Economy with Zero Pollution: Curb pollution, reduce material consumption, and minimise the environmental impact of European industry and consumers. The proposed “circular economy action plan” makes it clear that the use of materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metals and minerals, along with associated water generation, are projected to continue to increase in the EU in the short term. The new action plan therefore emphasises the need for faster action, with a particular focus on key product value chains (electronics and ICT; batteries and vehicles; packaging; plastics; textiles; construction and buildings; food, water and nutrients). These efforts must integrate with the Green Deal’s “zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment”.
  6. The Digital Transformation: Build cutting-edge digital infrastructure, strengthen innovation, and protect citizen’s rights to their data and European democracy. EU and European companies must become leaders in the digital revolution if the region is to maintain its high living standards. This will require substantial investments in technology innovation and digital infrastructure. The Commission has identified critical needs, but more specificity and ambition are required to realise the Digital Transformation.


The updated ranking based on the SDG Index shows that four out of five Nordic countries still remain in the top 5 positions. Finland is ranked the highest followed by Sweden, Denmark and Norway in the fifth place. Iceland is ranked number 11. There are still common challenges remaining when it comes to achieving SDG2 (Zero Hunger), SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG13 (Climate Action), SDG14 (Life Below Water), and SDG15 (Life on Land). However, the picture is not as uniform as it has been.

Top 5 ranking: Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Norway

Explore the data in interactive maps, country profiles, and view ranking and scores. >>


The report was prepared by teams of independent experts at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP).

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